Art inspired by attention

November 11, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Audiotapes will provide R. Benjamin "Ben" Jones' commentary on each of the 64 works on display at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater this weekend.

There will be paintings and a few drawings, among them scenes the artist has captured on his travels close to home in Washington County and farther away in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut - even Italy.

Jones doesn't often see things without thinking of them as someday becoming a painting.

"What grabs my attention is light and shadows and forms," Jones said.

Jones works by photographing - sometimes sketching - people and places and later painting them.

He studied art at the Maryland Institute of Fine Arts and studied for the ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He came to Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hagerstown in 1966.


Jones began to spend more time with his art in 1970. He discovered the Newcomer farm near Ringgold on a drive a few years later. A giant sycamore tree caught his eye and drew him out of his car. Landowner John Newcomer saw him and came down to meet him after he finished chopping wood. It was the beginning of a friendship and inspiration for many paintings.

Jones' work has changed through the years. Stark, austere, winter scenes are among the early paintings.

"I was afraid of trees, leaves, flowers," he said, adding that he would tremble with a brush with pink on it.

Not any longer.

There are lots of colors, lots of flowers - lush portraits of solitary blossoms, flowers in New England, flowers in Italy. "Tuscany Window" has flowers spilling out of a window box, and there's a broader view of that scene in "Monteriggioni."

Jones does that frequently. There are two views of a lighthouse in Edgartown, Mass., and two views of hay making in Lancaster, Pa. Jones has painted several images of John Lapp, a man he happened on at an auction in Gap, Pa., in 1990.

"I know that guy's face better than he does," Jones said.

He said he now can paint in three days what used to take him a month to do, and, although he acknowledged that art can be taught, just doing it - painting until it's right - is the best teacher.

Jones considers himself fortunate to be able to earn a living by making pictures. He's been painting full time since 1979.

A portion of the proceeds from this weekend's show will benefit the scholarship fund of the HCC Foundation, which provides financial assistance to area students.

Proceeds from the sale of paintings at his art shows at HCC, including an exhibit with son David, in 2000, has netted more than $72,000 for the foundation's scholarship fund.

Raffle tickets cost $20 each and are available for a chance to win an original painting by Jones. The winner, whose name will be drawn at the Saturday show, does not need to be present to win.

"I think that school is a gem," Jones said. A year ago, he completed 23 years of teaching classes at the institution. His wife, Becky, a member of the college foundation's board, names, frames and handles all the business of the art enterprise.

"All I do is paint the pictures," Jones said.

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